The salary cap ceiling is getting a big hike next year

Here’s some great news for the Edmonton Oilers — the NHL’s salary cap ceiling is set to rise from $75 million to somewhere between $78 and $82 million for the 2018-19 season. With Connor McDavid’s record-setting $12.5 million annual extension set to kick in next season, the Oilers needed this news.

At minimum, if this report is correct, the cap will go up by $3 million next season. But if it reaches the $82 million figure Renaud Lavoie said it could, that would represent the biggest jump, $7 million, seen since the massive $6.3 million hike the ceiling took between 2006-07 and 2007-08. That said, I imagine the ceiling will end up at $80 million, which was suggested back in December.

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Like I said, this would be huge for the Oilers. Obviously it’s a good thing for pretty much every team in the league save for those who are struggling to reach the salary cap ceiling, but with Edmonton set to pay McDavid and Leon Draisaitl $21 million annually combined, they were really banking on a pretty significant salary cap increase.

Back in the off-season when Draisaitl and McDavid inked those deals, I compared them to another dynamic duo, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and how much of a percentage of the cap they ate up. Ultimately, the point was that they were going to eat up a lot of cap in the short-term, but like Crosby and Malkin in Pittsburgh, as the ceiling went up, the percentage of what McDavid and Draisaitl cost against the cap would go down. The argument against this logic was that the salary cap wasn’t going to continue to rise at as aggressive of a clip as it did after Malkin and Crosby signed their big contracts, but this news suggests otherwise. I figure we see another big spike in 2021-22 after the Seattle expansion team breaks into the league.

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When Crosby and Malkin started making a combined $18.2 million in 2014-15, the cap was at $69 million, meaning they cost the Penguins 26.4 per cent of their cap. Draisaitl and McDavid next year will cost the Oilers $21 million, which is $26.3 per cent of the $80 million figure right in the middle of the suggested range.

I’m not saying that McDavid and Draisaitl and Crosby and Malkin, but the Oilers probably aren’t as screwed by the $21 million combined cap hit as many think. I mean, to be honest, while Draisaitl is likely an overpay at $8.5 million, McDavid is discounted at $12.5 million. He costs them 15.6 per cent of an $80 million cap and he’s accountable for driving a lot more than 15.6 per cent of the team’s success.

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Next year, the Oilers have about $62 million committed to eight forwards, four defencemen, and two goaltenders. Among those not signed are restricted free agents Ryan Strome, Darnell Nurse, Matt Benning, Anton Slepyshev, Drake Caggiula, and Iiro Pakarinen. That means the Oilers would have about $18 million to get those guys signed and upgrade their roster. Let’s, uh, hope they spend it this time.

    • Serious Gord

      A little less hellish perhaps. I don’t see it going all the way at to 82mm – maybe 79 – more likely 78.

      The trump economy has helped revenues plenty in the US as has expansion (and the looming slump in the Canadian economy already portended by a weak dollar hasn’t hit yet).

      But I think the league is loathe to increase it too much only to have to reduce it sometime in the future. They would rather just pay higher escrow checks.

      And of course extra cap will make free agents and trades to address issues more expensive wiping out some of that room.

  • Randaman

    Ryan Strome, Darnell Nurse, Matt Benning, Anton Slepyshev, Drake Caggiula, and Iiro Pakarinen should all be really affordable. Nurse is the only one I would even consider signing longer term. Honestly, I wouldn’t be resigning Benning, Pakarinen or Caggiula but that’s just me.

    • Kepler62c

      Oh I don’t know about that last bit – certainly wouldn’t be committing big dollars or term to any of those three but I’d bring them all back.
      1) Letting them go is bad asset management, these guys can all play on an NHL roster.
      2) Pakarinen is a really great 4th liner, he’s easily the best PK guy on the team.
      3) Caggiula, despite not being anywhere near good enough for the top 6, is still developing and is a useful 3rd liner.
      4) Benning you’d be nuts to move on from, he’s a cheap 4-5 Dman for the next 2 years that is still developing.

      Obviously the case can be made to move on from these guys, try a different mix, but you trade them – not walk away from NHL calibre RFA assets.

      • Crakupov

        I agree 100%. The best asset management we could do is to trade overvalued assets. Prime example Jessi Puljujarvi he still has draft cache and his future value seems to be very overvalued. Deal him for a more established winger James Neal type and let another team incur his development risk.

      • Soccer Steve

        The one good thing about a down year is that you can lowball contracts at your RFAs. Disagree about Pakarinen though. He’s not good enough. And Caggiula was given too much without really earning it. Gotta knock that back a peg. We need better players on this team.

        Nurse on the other hand…hopefully we can home run that contract. Chiarelli needs a win, badly.

  • Castrum

    That’s great and all, but I’d imagine there’s maybe 3 fourth-liners in the entire league who wouldn’t fight like hell to never wind up as an Oiler. Chia has lots of cap space to sign no one worth signing.

  • Anton CP

    Ok, so let’s review all of the Oilers RFAs/UFAs

    RFAs: Ryan Strome, Anton Slepyshev, Drake Caggiula, Iiro Pakarinen, Matt Benning, Darnell Nurse, Nick Ellis, Patrick Russell, Laurent Brossoit, Kyle Platzer, Ben Betker, Braden Christoffer.

    UFAs: Mike Cammalleri, Ty Rattie, Yohann Auvitu, Mark Fayne, Brian Ferlin, Joey LaLeggia, Dillon Simpson, Keegan Lowe, Grayson Downing.

    Excluding the career AHLers that only Rattie is the one worth any discussion from UFA pool. It is hard to imagine that Rattie will be making more than what he is worth right now. He is likely be getting 1~2 years at the same rate of 700k.

    RFAs have tons of names that will be important for the Oilers:

    1) Darnell Nurse. Basically the best defenseman for the Oilers this season despite with very limited PP minutes. He is at minimum will be getting the same among of money like Klefbom if not more. The likely case is Nurse will be getting 5~5.5×8 if Chiarelli doesn’t want to be like the idiot Bergevin with Subban.

    2) Ryan Strome. As for now that he is getting paid at 2.5m and he will be getting a raise (not because of his playing but with cap room increase that salary inflation will also be a factor). He should be getting a range between 3~3.5m per and with most of the contract expire in 3 years that he will be getting 3 years too. So 10m for 3 years is a very likely case.

    3) Matt Benning. This is pretty hard to tell. Once the Oilers ink Nurse that the Oilers will be committing to 5 defenseman for the next 3 years. He is a right hand shot which has lots of value on open market but he still has lots to prove if he can be an everyday defenseman. The term will likely be 2 years because that he has to stay in front of Bear on depth chart. He should not be getting a huge raise but 2m per for 2 years are very likely.

    4) Drake Caggiula. Most likely will be getting just an year extension and value should be only for qualifying offer. As for now that he will have to compete with Rattie and Aberg for roster spot and he will be having one season to show for. I don’t believe that he should be paid north of 1.5m in any cases.

    5) Anton Slepyshev. If the previous report is correct then he may return to Russia. He is better option than Caggiula but it will also be hard to compete with the offer from KHL to keep him with the Oilers.

    6) Iiro Pakarinen. One more single year contract then he will be an UFA so not much to talk about, qualifying offer is the most likely case.

    7) Laurent Brossoit & Nick Ellis. One of them is a goner. It has a chance that both can be gone. The Oilers have to move Starrett up and they have to make room for him.

    And for the rest are pools of career AHLers with emergency call up bases that is not really worth mentioning.

    After all this, even with the cap room increasing that the Oilers will have for about 4~5m cap room left (if cap hits 80m) after all the re-signing. It is enough to add some veteran to help but it will not be enough to have any significant signing afterward.

    Let’s come back to this in a few months and see how accurate this can be…

    • Serious Gord

      Nurse doesn’t deserve anywhere near what Klefbom is getting. His offensive side is not nearly as good. Sign him to a bridge to see if he develops as much as you hope he will and then pay the piper. The last thing the oil need is an overpaid player on a long contract.

      • Anton CP

        Offensive side…really? He is leading the team defenseman in goals, assists, and points with only 30 mins of PP ice time and also team third place for shots. He will be among the league best within couple of years and do you want that in two years that you are forcing to sign him with 6~8m later?

        Ask Bergevin about Subban.

  • Big Nuggets

    I would lock Nurse up for 8 years for as cheap as possible, which is probably around 4-5 mil. For the people saying bridge him I disagree. He’s not going to get worse over the next 8 years and he is already playing 20 minutes a night fairly regularly. His potential to improve is also sky high. I’d rather save more cap in the future. I think we always need to be planning for the future, as a general philosphy for how the GM operates.

    Planning for the futue also means if we can find a solid veteran scorer on a one year contract, such as Kovalchuk, that would be good. Presuming he has a reasonable expectation concerning salary.